Short Post and tribute to Spartacus star Andy Whitfield who recently died age 39 of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
A true warrior in every sense, Champion of Capua, The Bringer of Rain, you played so well.
Before I tell you about myself and my blog I’d like to thank Roman and his friends for giving me the opportunity to write for you here.
I’d also like to express strong admiration for their community building efforts and their willingness to be open to others whose styles, training methods, and outlooks may differ somewhat. While our bias may be towards that which we practice, in essence our message is one and the same:
The Martial Arts are Good for You!
This has certainly been my experience so far, although I have to admit in the beginning to having my doubts.
Basically my story and the story of my blog comes from how I’d grown tired of aggression wherever I saw it, having played rugby for years and becoming increasingly wearied of the “rough sorts” around me who liked “dishing it out”, agitators who seemed to see brawling as much with teammates as the opposition as part of the game.
It certainly wasn’t a place where respect was encouraged, a total contrast to what I’ve found through the martial arts where they teach you respect, where respect is expected, and where it’s not given, it is more or less asked for, demanded, really. Not just respect for the Sifu, but for each other. I’m a big fan of being treated with respect.
So my insecurity with the martial arts had more to do with my previous experiences with the rugby than anything else. It also had to do with a certain denial of my own aggression, which I feared. On the rugby pitch I did at least have an outlet for it, through playing hard but fair; I certainly wasn’t one for throwing punches, cheap shots, when things would erupt, as often they did. My way was through tackling hard etc. But without this, I found I could no longer ignore it; and it was difficult, for a while I couldn’t reconcile the idea of being a nice person with smacking somebody, even in defense of myself.
On my blog in a post called Beginnings I talk about this, when I mention an “unsavoury scrape” which more or less meant I could no longer ignore this side of existence. And I think this is always the case: we can run from our demons, but not forever, and if we want some peace in our lives, then we first have to meet them, face up to them.
This doesn’t mean we have to jump in at the deep end or get ready for battle and fight our way out; just “facing” is fine. It’s just like when you stop swimming and struggling upstream, the current will take you; and sure enough while there’s rapids and difficult waters down this river, there’s no Niagara Falls or really dangerous passes you are needing to tackle, at least not immediately. Tackle these things when you’re ready and willing, when you’ve built up your skill; with skill comes confidence, so you’re more and more able to handle difficult things, dangerous things.
This is what my blog is about. I have in my short time in the martial arts seen so many give up before they’ve hardly begun; they see this long road stretching before them, a deep plunge that they cannot quite fathom, and they fall back on evasions like “I don’t have the time” or “it’s not really for me”.
For them, martial artists and fighters remain alien beings, when in essence it’s not like that at all; they don’t see them as people who’ve got used to doing something over a long period of time, who’ve developed the mettle to act in a way that seems brutal to them, out of a habit of practise, which becomes increasingly normal.
I was the same. The gap was too big. I couldn’t see the process of handling a little bit more, and a little bit more…over a long, long time…as the way that this happens, as the way that I’d change. But it is exactly the way; it takes patience, commitment, constant appraisal, much more than courage – courage is over-rated!
My blogs about that, fuel for the journey, musings on the martial life, hope for beginners etc. It’s a record of discovery, of recovery, and balancing up. I was out of kilter before; my martial practise has helped me to be more at peace with myself, more at peace with the world. It isn’t about a journey into conflict and violence, it’s about becoming yourself removed from your fears. Your potential is waiting!
N.B. Roman and friends can be found here.
I got into the martial arts for a variety of reasons but the one at the forefront – the most obvious reason for getting into the martial arts – was that I wanted to be able to “handle myself”, to learn how to defend myself should the need arise.
Little did I appreciate then that in handling oneself there’s as much to do internal dynamics as being able to “deal with” some unfortunate “other”.
Some of you may recognize only a little part of being able to handle yourself in the experience of not training for a wee while (sometimes a while for me is just a few days) leading to the rising of some nebulous tension, state of unease which, left long enough, usually leads to what I could best describe as a case of mild paranoia, where “enemies”, or “threats” would seem to arise wherever we go.
Usually I try not to indulge these thoughts of seeing myself entering scrapes for next to no reason, but sometimes that’s hard. I’m tense and pent up, with my energy unshorn of its “worthy” release. So sometimes I fail and upset myself more than I should
Fear is a funny thing: it hides at the back of aggression, masked by annoyance when we feign to be strong. Fear causes us to picture things going wrong, and our subsequent struggle or fight to right these wrong-doings. Here, in this state, I become, in a sense, as wary of myself as of any other, this belligerent but frightened me that has always been weak. And my confidence crumbles, just for a while.
The cure for me is getting back training as soon as I can; even a little helps, some fresh air punching, some kicks, some moves, enough to feel the physicality of my defences and assuage the mental fury before it consumes me.
Anger, anxiety, fear and the like, I’ve learned, are really all grist to the mill – energy to be transmuted, base metal to gold. As in metallurgy, the science of working or heating metals so as to give them certain desired shapes or properties, the martial arts beat an altogether different person out of mere dust. Here we take our flaky, untrained and inconstant self into our dojo, stoke up the fires of combat, and see taking shape some fiery substance that will one day shine with the luster of life, full and complete as the best of ourselves. At least that’s my vision.
Being able to handle myself, so I can walk down the street feeling quite safe; safe from my inner tormentor who imagines danger about me, more at peace with the world, is more why I train than anything else. The skills are a by-product that one day may just come in handy.
Training regularly helps me keep peace with myself.